Producers play an integral role in the television, film and video industries. A producer will oversee each project from conception to completion and may also be involved in the marketing and distribution processes.
Producers work closely with the directors and other production staff on a shoot. Increasingly, they need to have directing skills as they may be the director and be in charge of all project operations. Producers arrange funding for each project and are responsible for keeping the production within the allocated budget.
Creative input and the level of decision making varies, as this depends on the client and the brief.
Producers are responsible for facilitating a project and are involved in every stage of the television programme, film or video, overseeing the project from beginning to end, both in the studio and on location.
Essentially team leaders, they are supported by production assistants, coordinators and managers, depending on the size of the project.
- raising funding;
- reading, researching and assessing ideas and finished scripts;
- commissioning writers or securing the rights to novels, plays or screenplays;
- building and developing a network of contacts;
- liaising and discussing projects with financial backers - projects can range from a small, corporate video costing £500 to a multimillion-pound-budget Hollywood feature film;
- using computer software packages for screenwriting, budgeting and scheduling;
- hiring key staff, including a director and a crew to shoot programmes, films or videos;
- controlling the budget and allocating resources;
- pulling together all the strands of creative and practical talent involved in the project to create a team;
- maintaining contemporary technical skills;
- organising shooting schedules - dependent on the type of producer and availability of support staff;
- ensuring compliance with relevant regulations, codes of practice and health and safety laws;
- supervising the progress of the project from production to post production;
- holding regular meetings with the director to discuss characters and scenes;
- acting as a sounding board for the director;
- bringing the finished production in on budget.
In theory, the producer deals with all the practical and political aspects of keeping a project running smoothly, so that the director and the rest of the team can concentrate on the creative aspects.
- Starting salaries for assistant producers may range from around £18,000 to £25,000.
- With experience, salaries can reach £40,000 to £55,000, and for departmental heads, £60,000 to £80,000 plus benefits.
- Fees for freelance producers vary considerably, depending on experience and whether you work on TV factuals or dramas, or on feature films. For advice on pay guidelines for freelancers see the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU).
Salaries will also differ depending on the size of the company and the size and scale of the project. Salaried, permanent jobs with companies are becoming fewer, which may lead to financial insecurity. Employment is regularly offered on a self-employed or freelance-contract basis.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Work involves regular unsocial hours at weekends and in the evenings. Long hours and time spent in meetings or on location is the norm.
Career breaks may create difficulties because of the competitive nature of the industry and the need to network and keep up to date with industry changes.
What to expect
- The working environment may vary. Producers may spend a lot of time in the office or may be based in a studio or on location.
- Self-employment and freelance work are common and work is frequently offered on a contract basis. The freelance nature of the work may cause some employment insecurity.
- The ratio of male to female producers is approximately equal.
- The majority of the jobs are in London, but outside the capital, most production companies are in large cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Work on location may be anywhere in the country.
- You need to be highly motivated to succeed and able to take pressure as this is a job with the potential to be very stressful.
- Flexibility and mobility are extremely important, as is the ability to handle a high level of financial responsibility.
- Travel during the working day is frequent. Absence from home overnight is also common.
- Overseas work or travel may sometimes be necessary.
Although this area of work is open to all graduates, the following subjects at degree or HND level may increase your chances:
- communication and media studies;
- information technology/multimedia;
Entry without a degree or HND is possible, but most producers are educated to degree level.
Postgraduate qualifications are not required for entry into the profession. However, courses containing practical work experience in production may increase your chances of success in a notoriously competitive environment. Be aware that entry to these programmes is competitive and most require some previous experience so that you can give evidence of your practical skills and your work.
Look for courses that provide cutting-edge technical resources, a reasonable final production budget and contacts within the industry. For information on relevant training courses see the:
Search for postgraduate courses in media production.
You will need to have:
- confidence in their own ability;
- strong communication and people skills;
- presentation and pitching skills;
- strong time and resource management skills;
- creative ability;
- the ability to cope under pressure;
- a strong head for figures;
- leadership skills.
Gaining work experience or taking a weekend course while you are still studying may improve your chances of entry.
Any opportunities to network should be exploited and those in the sector expect it. If you can manage to work without pay for a short time, volunteer to work at some of the television and film festivals held annually throughout the UK.
As this is a job that requires experience, even first-time producers will have a significant track record in the industry, perhaps as an assistant producer or in research, marketing and scriptwriting. Producers are expected to have several years' experience and a thorough understanding of all programme-making techniques, including directing and editing skills.
Competition is fierce. Job vacancies are rarely advertised, so developing a network of contacts is essential.
Use creative job-hunting methods, such as approaching production and post-production companies speculatively. Be prepared to follow up letters and CVs in person by knocking on doors. Research the industry and individual production companies thoroughly. Keep abreast of current trends.
Focus your job search initially on runner positions. This is the area of work where recent graduates are most likely to find a job although increasingly, even runners may need to show that they have acquired some experience. Running is a good way to network, to help get a first job or training place.
With considerable experience it may be possible to find work as a film/video production manager - the role of deputy to a film/video producer, organising all the essential support facilities for the team, resolving problems and helping to bring the production in on budget. Experience in this role could potentially lead to employment as a producer.
When approaching potential employers, provide up-to-date evidence of what you can offer (e.g. a showreel, video, portfolio or script), gained through involvement with a university film society or community film project.
In the early stages of your career you may have to accept a very low salary and, if necessary, to work part-time in the industry and part-time in another area of employment to make ends meet.
The UK's largest broadcaster is the BBC, which has a remit for public service broadcasting, funded by the licence fee, as well as a growing commercial arm. In recent years it has added new digital, cable/satellite and international channels to its existing terrestrial network.
The largest commercial channel in the UK is ITV and the company also encompasses several digital channels and 15 regional licenses. The ITV Studios produce content for their own channels as well as other broadcasters in the UK and abroad.
Other leading broadcast channels include:
Over the last few years there has been a large increase in digital and satellite channels as well as internet content, which is specifically produced for online audiences on websites such as YouTube.
The film and video industry in the UK is made up of mainly small organisations. These include:
- independent production companies (known as 'indies');
- production and facilities houses;
- community film/video projects;
- a small number of film companies.
Look for job vacancies at:
- The Broadcast Production Guide
- Guardian Jobs
- The Knowledge
- Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT)
- The Stage
Prospective employers can browse CVs and call candidates for interview through the use of sites such as:
However, an annual subscription charge applies to applicants wanting to post CVs on these sites. Although very useful, consider whether or not you are happy for your details to be made freely available.
Many contracts are gained through reputation, word of mouth and being in the right place at the right time.
Developments and changes within the television, film and video industries means programme/filmmakers now have to be more flexible. For example, some producers are taking a more directorial role in programme making.
The changes have resulted in more mobility and increased entry to the industry, but also less job security, so it is increasingly necessary for staff to be multi-skilled and able to move across traditional jobs flexibly and in as many different environments as possible.
Training is provided mainly on the job by employers and a range of short courses are available.
The government and industry-funded organisation, responsible for ensuring that workers in the audio-visual industries are appropriately trained, is Creative Skillset: The Sector Skills Council for the Creative Industries. In conjunction with industry employers and training providers, it runs free and subsidised training for those with some experience.
Work experience placements in a variety of roles within the sector - as well as the opportunity to study for a recognised qualification - are offered by The Advanced Apprenticeship Programme in Digital and Creative Media, developed by Creative Skillset. Creative Skillset provides links to other training programmes run by broadcasting and independent production companies.
The BBC runs a range of schemes for those new to the industry, including the BBC Production Trainee Scheme.
Training for independent TV and digital media production companies and freelancers is provided by the Indie Training Fund (ITF), which offers a range of courses relating to production.
Some independent television companies have graduate training schemes, which operate on an individual company basis. These are likely to be advertised on the companies' websites, in the local and national press and on Broadcast.
Programme makers and producers working in television, film and video tend to work as self-employed freelancers on fixed, often short-term, contracts.
A multitude of skilled technical staff work across the television, film and video industries and the range of their activities and responsibilities depends on the size of the production, i.e. the capacity and length (normally between 3 days and 16 weeks).
There is no fixed route for promotion for producers: it depends on opportunities arising on an 'as and when' basis.
The common alternative is to progress by creating a studio or moving to working as an executive producer, accountable for several projects.
After the producer, the director is the most important person involved in making a programme/film. Substantial experience of the industry is required for this role.
Two top tips offered by industry professionals are:
- learn about the whole business and;
- volunteer to work on new projects or programmes/channels so that you are first in line for promotion opportunities.